Havana Harbor

Refuge Denied

"They got there on the 29th, I believe, of May. And everybody was very excited. They packed their suitcases. They had brought them on the deck, and they were awaiting permission to leave to go to the land. And just 24, or maybe 48, hours prior to that, the passengers had learned that there was trouble in Cuba. They might not be able to disembark.

The air was very humid, tropical, and very different from Germany, and they were waiting on deck for hours upon hours. And it was getting very hot and stifling there. And not everybody, I imagine, knew about it initially, but there was a committee formed by some of the passengers, and they reached out to the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee through Cuba and the United States, and they dispatched two individuals that came to try to negotiate with the Cuban government. And the Cuban government was not all that ethical, and they made many demands, and at one point the individuals thought they had reached an understanding, but then the terms of the agreement were changed, and time ran out. They also told the ship’s captain through communication-- telegrams and so-forth-- they did not want to negotiate while the ship was in the Cuban harbor.

By the way, my Uncle Julius, he rented a boat, and he went out to the ship to try to see if he could see his relatives there, and from my Aunt Edie’s account, Ilse was running up and down the ship to get his attention, but it was to no avail."

Editor's Note: Julius Simon was among many family members of St. Louis passengers who had managed to arrive safely prior to the cancellation of the Benitez landing permits. Julius had also secured passage for many of the Simon family's belongings, which were being held in storage. When the St. Louis arrived in Havana Harbor, there were many small boats there to meet the ship filled with family members hoping to catch a glimpse of their loved ones.

Meanwhile, a small committee of prominent passengers, consisting of Max Zellner, Max Weiss, Herbert Manasse, Josef Joseph, and Arthur Hausdorff, was organized to coordinate efforts to negotiate on behalf of the passengers. Through telegrams, they enlisted the help of the American Joint Distribution Committee to negotiate on their behalf. The Committee was able to raise enough funds to offer the Cuban government $50,000 U.S. to guarantee that the passengers would not pose a burden for the people of Cuba, but negotiations with Cuban President Bru were to no avail. 




proposalfromlawrenceberenson.pdfpdf / 1.11 MB Download